Body and Self

I admit the Army is probably about as far from civilian society as you can get in social norms and remain on this planet.  As a result of my time in that culture sometimes the problems of our civilian society strike me as the quaint (read insane and destructive) customs of Saudi Arabia.  One of those problems, well honestly, one among many, seems to fall more heavily on women than men, but in that uniquely North American way, the gap between the healthy male and dangerous female is being closed……by increasing the dysfunction of men (insert heavy sigh).

We have a societal ideal of beauty, which looks a little bit like this  (Oh look its a sword; deal with it, its my metaphor)  Italian Rapier


Which is really funny, because at no time in our history has our norm deviated as far from our ideal, but that is not my point (pun intended).  That is not me, has never been me, will never be me, and really isn’t close to what I can be.  I am not slim and trim, elegant and refined.  I am not lithe and quick, supple and svelt.  At my best, I was a workhorse.  I remain strong, gifted with huge endurance, vast reserves of power and a gift for its precise and controlled application.  I am heavy, hairy, going grey, going bald, and with enough resemblance to a winter bear or walrus to ensure I won’t sink or starve if left alone on the ice or open water.  Honestly, I kind of like it that way.

Me(oh look, another sword.  Norse Longsword. Still my metaphor.


We had a few hard core athletes on our basic training.  One was a cyclist with the body off a Greek statue.  Your classic Italian rapier of a body.  The thing about his body is that I remember very well how it looked at the beginning of our route march through the mountains, and the way it felt as two of us carried his gym tuned perfection down the mountain on a stretcher because his sculpted perfection was just not up to the brutality of three days straight of march, dig, fight, march fight, dig, without breaks beyond ten minute power naps in alternate numbers.  It was a brutal test of mental and physical reserves that revealed the differences between form and function.  Not all the perfect visual specimens were worth shit when it counted.  They broke, got weak, stupid, clumsy and hurt.  Not all of the soft or fragile ones failed at all.  One soft looking Pillsbury dough boy was on the other end of the stretcher carrying Mr Olympus down from the mountain, while a cheerleader carried his rucksack in addition to her own.   My understanding of the ideal body was rooted in this; function.  Can it do what you ask of it.  Can you kill with it (granted not big on everyones list, but I formed it in the infantry, so allow it the preeminence it holds in my list), can you work with it, can you drive it over the mountains, across rivers and lakes, through heavy seas?  Can you make your lover sigh, scream, and smile with it?  Can you express yourself with it? Are you comfortable in it when you are alone?  Can you please it with those rewards you offer it for putting up with your unreasonable demands and shoddy treatment?

On a deployment we had been a loooooooong time between showers, or more than a cup of wash water per day per troop for way too long.  We finally got back to “civilization”, which looked a lot like four Quonset huts for a shower.  About a Battalion of us for four shower huts.  One was reserved for women, three for men (90% men, so fair enough).  One female Lt who shall remain nameless (as she holds a grudge and probably remembers this) marched some of the females into Hut 3 (male) where we were showering and told the men to clear out that she was ordering two huts for men, two for women (remember 90% men).  She was in full uniform, and we were either naked, or desperately clutching the army green (size get real, not covering anything, small) towel.  While all of us young bucks where embarrassed at our nakedness in the face of her clothed/ranked authority, WO Cormier was not.  With his towel thrown casually over his left shoulder, I guess in place of the pace stick he usually tucked under that arm in dealing with idiot officers, he planted himself feet wide in the position of ease, and placed his hands upon his hips.  When he enquired “What in the hell did mam think she was doing in the male showers with female troops”  the now stammering Lt replied simply “You are out of uniform”.

WO Cormier looked down the length of his grey, scarred, paunchy body, then up the length of her uniformed and trim form, and slowly scratched his balls before replying.  “And you are in the men’s showers as designated by the CO and posted by the Adjutant, now skedaddle!”  She did, in fact, skedaddle, doing as quick an about face as ever a parade ground saw, and retreated faster than the French when they realized nobody remembered their white flag.

While all of us reacted to her presence with shame at our nakedness (and honestly, my wife and I are equally nostalgic about the body I had at the time), WO Cormier was so comfortable with his own body that his nakedness was as much a part of his personal power as his uniform was.  Rather than being diminished by the sight or judgement of others, his own sense of self made him impervious to the judgments of others.  He owned his own body, not a fantasy body that was endangered by people pointing out bulges here, greying there, or bits with funny scars or bumps on them.

Society tells us we all need to be slim little Italian rapiers.  I am not.  I am a heavy pattern welded longsword; scarred from use, pitted from age.  Not a single fine carving or delicate ornamentation.  I am not lithe or swift, and not going to be any time soon.  I am me.  I know what I can do.  I can do things none of those delicate rapiers could dream of, not with the cat like grace of a leopard, but with the ponderous inevitability of the Grizzly.  I am a balding grey bearded fat man, like Santa I can get more done in a single shift than most people can do all year, and have a well earned reputation for knowing what to do with a naughty girl on my lap.  I am comfortable with me.  I find my wife sexier with every passing year, because she is getting less and less concerned with what she should look like, and should enjoy, and more concerned with enjoying being herself.

Sexy is not beauty, sexy comes from a level of comfort with yourself, and finding yourself desirable, or knowing what you bring to the loving.  Powerful is not a thing that comes from any one form, power is based on what you can do.  Learn yourself, what you can do, what you can feel, what you can make others feel.  This is your body.  Make it a weapon that defends you, a tool that easily what others find impossible, and a sex toy that your partners and yourself derive great pleasure from using.  Get comfy, you are in it for life.


2 thoughts on “Body and Self

  1. Thanks from a woman who used to have a dynamite figure and didn’t know it. Wish I had the confidence then that I have now. Still not happy with the extra pounds, but starting to make friends with them.

  2. Petros says:

    This is great. It reminds me of my time in the service as well. I can sympathize with the athlete that couldn’t deal with the physical reality of being in the field. The thing I’ve noticed with high level athletes is that they are “specialists”: elite in the task they are designed/trained for but over their heads in other situations. I was a track/field guy before I joined the army and there were times that my mental attitude was the only thing keeping me going when my body had said “enough”. Now that I’m older, my body actually feels less functional! My chiropractor says I’m like a high-end sports car that can only be taken out of the garage for a short spin and then needs a total tune-up, while she’s a Chevy that you can bang-up and beat up and know it’ll be okay. Along the same lines, my wife likes to say that she’s “built for comfort, not for speed.”

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